Marlinton Council votes to expand cell service choices

Jaynell Graham

In his Mayor’s Report at Monday night’s Town Council Meeting, Sam Felton said if anyone was in doubt about the need to begin work on the water plant, those doubts should be laid to rest as the plant is “falling down around us.”

“The vent for the restroom at the water plant goes out through the ceiling, and a brace appeared to have rotted in two, allowing the entire section of iron pipe vent to collapse and fall through the ceiling,” Felton said. “Fortunately plant worker Dave Johnson was not standing three or four feet closer to the area, because it came crashing down through the ceiling right beside him, and he could have been injured.”

Orders Construction replaced the vent and did the necessary emergency repairs.

In looking to the future, the town has been in negotiations with T-Mobile since August, with regard to a cell tower to be installed on the roof of the municipal building. T-Mobile service is activated at the cell tower near Buckeye, and the addition of a tower in Marlinton would expand its service.

Town Attorney Tom White, with Dinsmore and Shohl, LLC, was present at the meeting to answer questions, and advised council that the form of the contract is in proper order.

That contract calls for a lease of a portion of the municipal building roof for installation of a 30 foot tower, as well as 120 square feet of space for equipment.

Four members of the public were in attendance at the meeting to express concerns about radio frequency emissions and the potential negative impact on the health of those who are sensitive to them.

A public safety and electromagnetic emissions fact sheet was provided by T-Mobile to those in attendance. It contained a statement from the American Cancer Society, that read: “Public exposure to radio waves from cell phone tower antennas is slight for several reasons. The power levels are relatively low, the antennas are mounted high above ground level, and the signals are transmitted intermittently, rather than constantly.”

The World Health Organization’s statement is: “Studies to date provide no indication that environmental exposure to RF fields, such as from base stations, increases the risk.”

And the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s statement: “The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”

T-Mobile’s representatives also provided a hand-out which compared cell tower emissions to other wireless devices, showing that emissions were less than from those of  laptops and cordless phones.

One of the attendees, concerned about negative health effects from radio frequencies, encouraged the town to consider becoming “off grid” as a way to encourage more people who suffer from sensitivity to RFs to move to the area – providing a safe place other than around the quiet zone in Green Bank.

Felton acknowledged their concerns, but expressed the need for better broadband and cell service for the future of the county.

Emergency Management and 911 Director Michael O’Brien was at the meeting and talked about safety issues.

He said half of 911 calls are now made from cell phones, and he is in favor of having an additional tower in Marlinton.

O’Brien would also like to talk with T-Mobile about the possibility of placing a camera on the tower.

The ability to have a birdseye view of the town would help emergency responders monitor situations such as flooding.

After nearly an hour of questions, answers and discussions, council voted unanimously to enter into a contract for 29 one-year term leases with T-Mobile at a rate of $800 per month paid to the town. This monthly payment will increase by three percent per year.

In other business, council

• approved two applications for RV parks

• approved payment of invoices for construction, engineering and administrative costs associated with the water improvement project.

• gave its blessing to the hire of E. L. Robinson, Charleston, as consultant for the Discovery Junction project

• approved the addition of a restroom/restrooms for the Discovery Junction project.

Council meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building.

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